Mitchell expecting ‘continued success’ at WEHS

Joel Mitchell was looking to lead a school with academic excellence, good teachers and a supportive community. He said he found that at Williston-Elko High School.
He comes to WEHS from Lugoff-Elgin High School in Kershaw County where he was one of four assistant principals, but previously taught and coached several sports for six years. As an assistant principal, Mitchell was responsible for 650 of the school's 1,700 students. He helped with discipline, transportation and athletics, all of which prepared him for the administrative duties of his new job.
"I am looking forward to continued success," said Mitchell, citing accomplishments such as WEHS receiving the Palmetto Gold award the past two years.
As principal, Mitchell said he wants to accomplish that by getting to know the students and ensuring the teachers and staff have the resources they need to help students learn.
"The reason we're a good school is because of the teachers we have in place," including four new hires, said Mitchell, citing how half of them assisted with registration even though they weren't required to.
Fred Orr and Bobby Tyler will "bring a wealth of knowledge" to the math department, joining veteran WEHS teacher Bernard Walters. Lawrence Kelly is coming on board as a new physical education teacher. They also welcome Kimberly Ray as their new resource teacher, though she will split her time between WEHS and Kelly Edwards Elementary.
He also wants to the teachers and students with the transition from HSAP - the high school exit exam that state lawmakers eliminated - to whatever test replaces it. While WEHS students have been taking the career ready WorkKeys test, which is one of two tests replacing HSAP. The college ready test has not been announced.
While Mitchell wasn't originally sure about some policies, such as one where students are locked out after the bell rings and must go to the office for a pass, he said he's seen the data that shows how tardies decreased.
Instead of making major changes this year, Mitchell said he wants to understand what his faculty and staff think of how things are going. That's why he formed a leadership team of teacher leaders to explore what's working and what should be changed.
Mitchell encourages students to read their handbook, which they will receive the first day of school. "Not knowing isn't an excuse," he said of the rules and policies, including the new one related to electronic devices.
He also encourages parents to review the handbook with their children as well as their own expectations for the school year. He also wants parents, business leaders and other community members to be involved in the school. "It's imperative we all work together," said Mitchell, who is looking forward to getting to know every student. "We want students to be academically successful and successful in life."
All parents and students are invited to an open house on August 14 from 3 to 7 p.m. to meet teachers and "get everything squared away" before the first day of school. The region football jamboree will follow at 7 p.m.
Mitchell, who holds a Master's degree from Winthrop University, is pursuing his Ed specialist from Converse College. Once he earns that in May, he will be halfway to his doctorate. He is also pursuing his superintendent's certification to help him with his goal of one day becoming a superintendent, though he said he still has much to learn.